Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

March 16, 2014

Reunion (solution)

Martin Tompa

Peter knows, without having to think about it, that the first thing to consider in this situation is ducking. Unfortunately, he would have to discard a big card such as T. That would make Hans’s trick point total 52, and then cashing A would give Hans exactly 66 trick points. Ducking is out.

If Peter plays his A and wins this trick, that will bring his total to 34 trick points. After that, it looks at first as though Peter should be able to cash his three winners AT and ♣A for plenty of trick points. The trouble, though, is that he is likely to draw either a heart or club from the stock, and whichever he draws robs him of one of those winners. Suppose, for example, that Peter draws the ♣Q. This would be the new position, with Peter on lead:

Hans: (38 points)
♣ —

Peter: (34 points)
♣ AQ

Running his hearts would bring Peter to only 61 trick points. In contrast, as soon as Hans gains the lead, his two trumps will bring his trick point total to at least 65 and then, with the trumps gone, he can cash his winning Q.

If Peter were to draw a heart, say J, from the stock instead of ♣Q, the situation is nearly identical. This would be the position, again with Peter on lead:

Hans: (38 points)
♣ Q

Peter: (34 points)
♣ A

Peter can only get to 63 trick points, and Hans has the same three winners as he had in the earlier position.

The only card Peter can draw from the stock that gives him a win is the optimistic A. So do we conclude that it’s nearly hopeless for Peter? It doesn’t matter much whether he ducks or wins the trick?

In fact, with just a little thought after Hans leads his K, Peter lays his hand face-up on the table and says, “This is one of those perfect opportunities for what we used to call a ducking ruff, Hans. I have a losing trump card, my T, that I can use to trump your K. There is no rush for me to use my A, because you have already shown me the Q in your hand on which I can use it later. Those two tricks will bring my total to 47 trick points. That leaves me with three big winners in hearts and clubs. Even if I draw a heart or club from the stock, I will still be able to cash two of them, which will give me enough trick points. That’s one game point for me.”

“Very nicely done, Peter,” Hans says with a smile. “I see that you haven’t lost your talent for the game.”

“Why, thank you, Hans,” Peter responds gratefully, a compliment from his clever big brother always appreciated. “I noticed something interesting about your last lead. Had you led the Q when you declared the marriage instead of the K, my planning would have been simplified. I could have afforded to discard T, giving you 51 trick points. After that, your only trick would be my lead of Q taken with your A, which would leave you at 65, just 1 trick point short.”

“Yes, I know,” Hans replies. “That’s why I led K.”

© 2014 Martin Tompa. All rights reserved.


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About the Author

Martin Tompa

Martin Tompa (

I am a Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, where I teach discrete mathematics, probability and statistics, design and analysis of algorithms, and other related courses. I have always loved playing games. Games are great tools for learning to think logically and are a wonderful component of happy family or social life.

Read about Winning Schnapsen, the very first and definitive book on the winning strategy for this fascinating game.


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